'Thousands' facing air weapon law breach

Image caption Thousands of weapons have already been handed in during a three-week amnesty earlier in 2016

Tens of thousands of air gun owners are risking imprisonment or a fine if they do not surrender their weapons or apply for a licence by the end of the year.

New legislation to make it a criminal offence to own an unlicensed air weapon comes into force from 31 December 2016.

Police Scotland said 17,069 weapons had been handed in and 8,320 people had applied for a licence.

The Scottish government has estimated there could be up to 500,000 air weapons in Scotland.

Air weapons being held by people who have other firearms licences do not need to be declared until those licences are up for renewal - and some people may have multiple weapons.

However, that still leaves thousands of weapons unaccounted for, according to the Scottish government figures, with just 46 days left before the law change.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Gun owners who want to surrender a weapon should contact their local police station

Police Scotland ran a high profile amnesty scheme earlier in the year which saw thousands of weapons surrendered at police stations across the country.

Air weapon owners have been able to apply for a licence from 1 July 2016.

Anyone who wants to surrender a weapon is advised to contact their local police station.

The Scottish government said the new licensing regime applied to people and not individual guns. Once someone has a licence, they can keep as many weapons as they wish as long as they have the appropriate storage and security measures in place.

A spokesman for the government added: "As part of the original bill, we estimated around 20,000 new applicants over five years and we are making good progress towards that figure.

"Furthermore, Police Scotland are not yet seeing many applications from people who already hold a firearm or shotgun certificate. Applications from existing certificate holders are not required until existing certificates require to be renewed, after 30 December."

The Scottish government pledged to introduce the licensing scheme following campaigning in the wake of the death of Glasgow toddler Andrew Morton, who was killed by an airgun in 2005.

The two-year-old died after being hit on the head with an airgun pellet near his home in the Easterhouse area of the city.

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